How to Become a Sous Chef
The culinary arts is a field where edible art is created every day. A sous chef is the second in command in a traditional kitchen, under the direction of the executive chef. There are many ways to become a sous chef in this exciting field.
There are as many opportunities for working as a sous chef as there are restaurants around the globe. Most will also choose an area of expertise along with their general culinary training. People in this career enjoy daily challenges, managing a crew and have a passion for cooking.
Education Requirements to Become a Sous Chef
While there is not a definite educational requirement to become a sous chef, a degree in culinary arts will help. There are some local community colleges that offer a two year degree in culinary arts that will prepare the recipient for a career as a sous chef. Some programs can be completed on a full-time or part-time schedule depending on the school, and there are private and public institutions that fall into this category. A four year degree can also be earned with a major in hotel or restaurant management. These programs will have some cooking as part of the curriculum as well as advanced management classes designed for those entering food and beverage.
There is another path to become a sous chef that does not require a formal education. Anyone that is willing to learn can start working in a kitchen as a prep or line cook. Skills are then taught by the current sous chef and executive chef over the span of a few years. This pathway will allow someone to gain practical experience, but may take significantly longer and may not lead to work in a prestigious location.
In any educational path you choose to take, a certification is the standard credentials for a sous chef. Obtaining a certification involves having about five years of professional cooking experience, and the American Culinary Federation grants this and other certifications to help progress your career.
Sous Chef Job Description
The typical day of a sous chef will vary depending on the kitchen they work, the location, cuisine and amount of people they oversee. In smaller operations, they may also take part in the prep and cooking aspect of the kitchen. Duties in larger operations may lean more towards managing others and providing guidance in training new employees.
The specific job duties that are done will ultimately depend on where and what cuisine you choose. Certain cuisines, such as French, are more involved and will have job duties that are geared more towards cooking rather than management. Food that is more easily made, such as institutional settings, will have the higher emphasis on management.
Here are some duties that are common to many sous chefs:
- Maintaining cleanliness of the kitchen
- Responsible for scheduling work and events
- Order supplies and food
- Carry out the orders of the executive chef
- Prep and cook food as needed
Sous Chef Salary and Career Path
The earnings potential of a sous chef is highly dependent on the location of which they work. A full-service restaurant may offer $36,000 a year while a resort may be more along the lines of $46,000 a year. Some are able to come up with an earnings contract that will earn them more money as the business becomes more profitable. There are also unwritten benefits of being a sous chef which may include:
- Included meals, uniforms and personal kitchen tools
- Learning a new menu and cuisine when changing jobs
- Living in tourist destinations
- Experiencing a different culture, if traveling as part of the work
It is important to remember that wherever there are people, there is always a job for a sous chef. Vacation, resort and tourist destinations are common areas for a sous chef to work, as well as on a cruise ship. Planning to go into one of these locations is competitive; having a formal degree is helpful when looking for work in these areas. There is also an international demand for those that are properly trained in culinary arts.
For more information about becoming a sous chef check out The American Culinary Federation
For those who enjoy cooking, taking responsibility, helping to create a masterpiece everyday and are willing to follow their dreams the career of sous chef can be a rewarding option. A formal degree may be the preferred way to enter a high-end establishment, but the title of sous chef can be earned through hard work by learning the trade. Start working in a kitchen as soon as possible to see if this is something that you may enjoy doing. If one kitchen gave you a bad experience, choose another to try to give a more positive one; you are bound to find a location that will be a perfect fit.
*Salary Information provided by the Bureau Of Labor Statistics